Web Design for a Strong First Impression
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There’s an old saying that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that’s especially true with your business’s online impression, beginning with your web design. In a fast-paced digital world, users expect immediate and relevant results on the internet. In fact, one of the most commonly monitored metrics is a website’s bounce rate. That’s the percentage of users who reach your website, but leave after viewing only one page. According to Hubspot tips on decreasing your bounce rate, a high bounce rate for users “suggests they either didn't find what they were looking for, or the page wasn't user-friendly.” A good web design will ensure that visitors find you, find your site relevant to their search, and find your site appealing so they’re eager to learn more about your products or services. If you’re starting a new business and need a website or if you’ve been in business for a while and are ready for an updated web design, you’ll want to incorporate these elements.
What You See
Any good designer—whether designing clothing, furniture, buildings, communities, or websites—knows there are two sides to every design: what you see and what’s hidden. An architect, for instance, creates a hidden framework for a building to ensure strength and functionality while also creating an end product that looks great. Similarly, web design includes both visible elements and elements that function behind the scenes. Visual elements are, of course, what your visitors will see and experience on your site.
Using images that correspond to your website’s content and brand message is crucial because images evoke emotions and create connections. When writing about “How to Create Images That Attract & Convince Your Target Niche,” author Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré reminds us that we process symbols and visuals much faster than we do the written word and that symbols and visual cues have the power to convey multiple messages. When choosing images for marketing purposes, then, DeMeré suggests that you “consider not just what you want to tell people, but what you want them to feel.” If you’re looking for new images for your website, consider how the images relate to your brand and your overall marketing message. If your company’s business and branding strategy is to promote strength and reliability, for instance, you’ll want to use images that convey those feelings to your site’s visitors.
Color is one of the most basic visual cues you’ll have on your website, your logo, or any other branding and marketing collateral. Like images, colors can convey emotions and encourage customers to engage with your business. “The Psychology of Colors in Marketing and Branding” explains what a huge impact using the right colors can have: “Research shows that the proper use of color increases brand recognition by 80%. It also raises the visual appearance by 93%. A further 85% of consumers buy because of color.” No wonder large corporations protect their logos and color schemes. The article goes on to provide highly recognizable corporate logos and color schemes to illustrate the “color emotion guide.” As a small business owner, you can also take advantage of selecting a palette of colors that work for you and your business when creating a new web design. Choose colors to engage visitors with the information on your site. Keep in mind that the same general color can be a good match for illustrating vastly different concepts. For instance, an environmentally-focused website might use the color green to convey thoughts of nature and purity of the outdoors while a financially-focused website might use the same color to illustrate the business’s focus on financial independence and strength.
Content includes the text on your website, and, though it may not at first seem important to web design, it’s a key visual component. Of course, the message itself must be what your website visitors expect to see (if you’re selling fishing gear, your site should have content about fishing gear). A good web design goes beyond ensuring that the message is appropriate, though, by also ensuring that the message’s appearance is appropriate. If you’re selling fishing gear, you don’t want the headline text to be an ornate, cursive font. Similarly, you don’t want the size or weight of the font to dominate the page or underwhelm your message.
Site Organization and Navigation
Good site structure and visual navigation aids should allow users to find information on your website easily. To make finding information on your site simple, your web design must incorporate an organizational pattern that makes sense to users as well as internal links from page to page that are easy to navigate. Visitors to your website will not wander around the site trying to find information they want; instead, they will leave your site and visit a competitor’s site that is designed to be more user-friendly. If you want to test how easy it is to navigate your site, ask a few people to find specific pieces of information on your site. See how long it takes them to find the information and how many steps it takes to get there.
Behind the Scenes
Like the example of the architect who designs the framework of a building to support its function as well as its aesthetics, a good web designer must incorporate a framework that makes the site user-friendly as well as functional in a digital world. Some of the behind-the-scenes framework will impact what the user experiences on the site while other behind-the-scenes efforts have a greater impact on users finding and using the site in the first place.
Search Engines and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Not only is site navigation and organization important to your human customer, but it’s also a crucial element in helping search engines such as Google and Bing guide visitors to your site for the right reasons. There are some web design best practices for structuring your site, your internal links, and your web copy, to ensure that the search engines are cataloguing your site’s content and showing your information in relevant search results. Your site should also have a behind-the-scenes coding structure that supports search engine optimization (SEO) and helps drive traffic to your site. Hexalinks’ blog post on “Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Fundamentals for Business Owners” can help you better understand how SEO works.
A Responsive Design
Being responsive to your customers will always boost your bottom line regardless of your industry or type of business. In the digital world, being responsive is important as well. A responsive web design adjusts the layout for optimal viewing on different devices. Responsive design ensures that a user viewing your site from a smartphone and a user viewing your site from a desktop connected to a 34-inch monitor both have a good user experience and that the visual display is appropriate for their device.
The Need for Speed
Web performance is a big deal and definitely impacts user experience. Performance in the realm of web design means, largely, how fast the site loads for users. Access to information at our fingertips has created an overwhelming lack of patience in the digital world. KIssmetrics provides some interesting statistics about internet users and their demand for speed, citing facts such as “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load” and “A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.” Those statistics alone should prompt you to make certain your website is performing optimally. Tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights allow you to measure your site’s performance to see how you’re doing.
Putting it All Together
Building a website that has a great behind-the-scenes structure with engaging visuals and that is user-friendly will make a lasting first impression for would-be customers. Since your website is often your customer’s first point of contact with you, make sure all the pieces are in place for a good user experience. Your web design may very well be the first step in converting that first impression into a happy customer.
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